Kaneohe non-profit committed to preserving nature vandalized with graffiti

Kaneohe non-profit committed to preserving nature vandalized with graffiti

KANEOHE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A natural spring running through the property of a Kaneohe non-profit that is committed to teaching the community how to malama 'aina, or care for the land, was vandalized with graffiti over the weekend.

Papahana Kuaola Waipao hosts educational programs for everyone from preschool-age to the heads of local corporations with activities that focus on Hawai'i's cultural and natural history, environmental restoration, and economic sustainability.

"The thing that we want to do is reconnect people to 'aina. That's what we're here for. That's what this land is for. That's why this is actually private property, but we open this space up to the public. It's kind of hurtful that the people who we are trying to help came here and desecrated this area," said Leomana Turalde, an employee at Papahana. 

On Sunday, workers discovered the area had been tagged with graffiti. Employees say some of the messages spray-painted across the rocks seem to indicate a turf-war. One of the vandals appears to have tagged his Instagram account name, but no one has stepped forward yet to take responsibility. Pictures of the graffiti were posted to various social media platforms Sunday night -- and shared and commented on by hundreds of people by Monday morning.

Heavy rainfall on Monday washed away some of the spray paint, while volunteers spent hours scrubbing whatever they could remove and painting over what they could not.

"The sad part about it is it's only going to hurt the children when they come up here after school to see what they did on Friday all washed away. We took away the weeds, but it was replaced by all this vandalism," said Ho'opono Wong, a Papahana employee.

Last week, the students in Papahana's after-school program, Kiko'u Ko'olau, cleared weeds and overgrown vines that were choking up the stream bed and covering up rocks.

"I felt really hurt because this is our end of the day treat, because after the hard work that we do we always come here and have fun and we like to jump off the high rocks," said 11-year-old Kaupali Aipoalani-Wong. 

"I was sad and I was kind of mad 'cause they came up here and drew on the rocks," said Malia-toa Taurii. "It's a sacred place and it has chemicals and it can make the water not as fresh."

Downpours throughout the day Monday made the stream too swollen and unsafe for the students to work on cleaning the area again, but they're committed to seeing it restored. 

Employees filed a report with police and an investigation is underway.

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